After getting some much needed shut eye, we had arrived at our first destination. The moment we stepped out of the car the thought of this place being a town was astonishing to me as I looked towards the dark ominous buildings in front of me. This place was quiet. To quiet if you asked me. There were people about, but in the sense that know one knew eachother or didn't trust one another. Something that I would never allow my self to be apart of. The air smelt of burning rubber and a smokey haze filled the air. It almost had me coughing and I had to wrap my scarf around my nose to keep the smell out.
"What the hell happened here?" Asked Oaken.
I looked around the small outer buildings, until I saw a symbol painted on one of them. I didnt recognise it but it stuck out like a sore thumb once you noticed it. I looked over to Gunner who looked on edge and Oaken's brows were furrowed. Her eyes had changed to accomodate the smoke that filled the air. They were yellow and her iris looked like a horizontal slit across the pupil. I was wondering how she saw. To us would it looked dark and grey, but to her I never knew. She was looking somewhere and the size of her pupil changed. She was zooming in on something towards one of the outer buildings. I looked over and could see the smoke was originating from behind a rundown shack. We made our way over and a knot in my stomach was starting to form.
"This doesn't feel right." Said Gunner.
No doubt he was feeling the same thing I was. We peered around the corner and ended up stopping in front of a massive pile of burned wood and animals. The smell hit us like a ton of bricks and I brought my hand up to cover my nose. It was hard to distinguish what was what as the smoke burned my eyes.
I looked over to Oaken who had tears streaming down her face. I quickly looked over to the pile, and focused on the charcoaled remains of the dead animals, until I finally saw what she saw.
An arm hanging out the pile. It was black and singed to the bone. As I continued to look, the more bodies I saw. They were burnt beyond recognition, and the pit in my stomach had me running the opposite direction. I ran towards the back of the adjacent building and felt a cold shock run from top to bottom before I threw up. I quickly wiped my mouth before leaning up against the building and throwing my head down to my knees. The image foever etched into my brain. Suddenly I felt a hand on my back. It was Oaken.
I looked to her and her tears had stopped flowing, but what replaced sadness was pure rage. We didnt need to ask what happened. We already knew who did this. The Dominion.
Gunner appeared around the corner as I stood up and wiped the tears away.
"We need to go." He said.
I nodded. Just one more thing. I went back around the building and looked around to see if there was anyone I could talk to. I ended up spotting an elderly woman sitting just outside her home. She looked.......dead on the inside. I slowly approached her and crouched down and took her hands in mine.
"Mam?" I spoke softly. "Can you tell me what happend here?"
She didn't say anything. I don't even think she registered my touch or voice.
"She wont help you." Said a voice walking out the home infront of me.
It was an older man. Looked to be her son perhaps? He was using a towel to wash the ash and dirt from his hands. Oaken and Gunner walked up behind me. "What happened here?" I asked again.
He sighed. "It was a hunting party." I saw his gaze turn directly to Oaken. He was eyeing her down and her brows furrowed again. She was feeling threatened.
"The Dominion?" I asked sternly.
"No." He finally looked towards me. "These guys were different. They weren't dressed in your typical Dom fashion. These guys wore civilian clothes however were armed to the tee with automatic weapons and.........one of them.........was like her." His gaze turned back to Oaken.
"As in......an Imperium?" I hesitated asking the question.
"Yes. He had the ability to control fire, and he............His intimidating stare broke as a tear fell to his cheek. He burned them alive."
Oh my god. I looked to Oaken and Gunner. She was shocked but Gunner just continued to listen intently. I turned back to the man. "An Imperium hunting for what?" I asked.
"They are looking for someone. Someone who goes by the name of..........June."
Shit! They know her name. So the game has changed. They no longer want her, but want to kill her? With her recent hit's she's more of a threat then anything. So Elias has hired some mercenaries to do the dirty work. And with another Imperium by the sounds of it. My guess is there fueled by money, not the cause. As I took in the information the elderly lady finally looked up and looked into Oaken's eyes. She frantically got up and starting hitting Bowdie in the chest.
Get out of here! Get out! She kept repeating as she hit her with balled fists. She was a fragile thing and it didnt seem to hurt Oaken so she let her take her anger out on her.
"Mom!" The man yelled and quickly came to her and pulled her in to him. "Come on, lets go inside."
The lady kept yelling, as her son brought in the house.
"Sir." I called out to him. "The symbol on the building."
He looked to it before turning back to me. "That's a little symbol of their appreciation. It's tattooed on their forearms as well, so keep a look out. These guys are don't give chances."
I looked back to Oaken and Gunner before walking hastily back to the car. I popped the trunk and grabbed a hand gun from my bag and slipped it in a holster that sat at my ankle, and then I grabbed a knife and attached it to the back of my belt before I hopped back in the car. Oaken took to the back seat and Gunner took to the passenger. We were all quiet as I took back to the road. I don't think any of us could talk about what we just saw, and just thinking about it again made my stomach churn. I understood now this is what my brother was keeping me away from.
This was what he protected me from. I always thought it was becuase he watched our mother die, but it was so I wouldn't get mentally scarred. Gunner looked at the map and turned to me. I could tell he hesitated to speak, but approached it carefully.
"The next town is about 100 km's from here. But it looks like we will have to walk it for a bit as its off the main road." He suggested. "It's called....Gypsy."
I quickly turned to him. "Gypsy?" I confirmed.
He looked back to double check. "Yes. Do you know it?"
I just nodded. I remember June telling me something about Gypsy. If I can recall it was the place she met Raeve. When she told me, I had always wondered why he ended up there. Perhaps it was a nice place to get away for while. The drive itself would take us less than an hour, and with less and less snow on the roads that mean our venture through the woods wouldn't be so tiresome.
It wasn't to long before I pulled the car off the road and hid it down a small trail. During our drive Oaken tried to get some sleep, but I think the images of the bodies kept her from accomplishing that. She was restless and jumped out the car the moment it stopped. Gunner and I joined her outside as well and we grabbed our packs and set off down the trail. The trail itself was a little muddy from the melted ice and snow. Even though we were only a day away, it looked like the heavy snowfall that hit Lingham didn't reach here. It felt almost warmer. I ended up shedding some layers on the walk towards Gypsy, and so did Oaken. Gunner didn't even bother bringing anything. I think his decision to tag along was a spur of the moment thing, and was barely dressed for the weather. He was covered knee high in mud and his footwear were not made for this type of terrain. I knew at some point we would have to stop and get provisions if he was going to continue with us on our journey.
Our trail ended up turning into a dirt road which led us straight to Gypsy. Looking at it, it resembled much like the previous town we stopped at. I took a deep breath before moving forward hoping to god we didn't find more dead bodies. I looked around and the air was clear. I looked to Oaken who's eyes were her beautiful dark brown, and then kept my eyes forward. The atmosphere was different to say the least. The buildings and shacks didn't look like they could handle a snow storm however the people seemed happy. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that mercenaries didn't come through.....yet. The street was busy and there was lots of travellers taking to the smalls market in the square. I watched a transaction between a traveller and a woman for a hat and scarf. I noticed he traded her things from his pack., and I remembered now. This place uses a bardar system.
I was trying to think of what I had in my pack that I could use to trade. Gunner needed something else other then his sneakers and flimsy wind jacket, and I wanted to get Oaken some sun glasses to hide her eyes. The last thing we needed was a Dom or missionary spotting her with her Imperium eyes.
I told Oaken and Gunner to go ahead and look for information about June or the flame thrower while I looked around. The place was busy, and they certainly made this place home. You could see the small touches they put to their homes, such as things they made by hand hanging from their doors. I stumbled upon one vendor who had exactly what I was looking for. I found some boots for Gunner, even though they might be a size to big, and some sunglasses. Unfortunatley the only pair she had could clearly be seen that it was put together with different parts, but it was enough to do the trick. Just until we stop at a bigger city that could then replace them.
I brought the two items to the lady and showed her the contents of my bag. I didn't have much to work with. What I had in there was extra clothes, handmade soaps, a few utensils incase we needed to camp out, and a small tent. I didn't show her the other compartment which was holding more hand held weapons. She took a look in and her eyes widened as she reached in and grabbed my belt. She looked at me and smiled, and I knew the transaction was complete. I took the boots and sunglasses and headed off to find another jacket or sweater for Gunner. I found another vendor who hand made clothing. I saw a couple knitted sweaters and made sure to grab one his size. It was a dark forest green, which was a manly colour I thought and brought it to the gentleman.
"I'm sorry, I dont know if I have anything to your liking." I told the man.
"Thats alright." He said. "There is something I saw on you that I wouldn't mind having if you would like to trade." He pointed to my watch.
It was either give up the watch or Gunner goes cold. I gave him the watch, on the condition he gave me a toque aswell. He was quick to agree.
I put the contents in my pack and made my way over to a shack, where I saw Gunner and Oaken enter. However before I made my way in something caught my eye. One of the buildings. It was small in size but looked familiar. I stood there and studied it. It was barley a building anymore. Only the front of the building was still standing and the sides were all caved in. Why does this place seem familiar?
I've been here before. I know I have, when I was younger I think. If I recall this particular building was white and had a bell tower up top. A church I think. I quickly looked around for the big boulder. I was beginning to remember. There was a big boulder that sat behind the building a few hundred yards. As I left Oaken Gunner made their way out of the shack.
"Bowdie?" Yelled Oaken.
I quickened my pace and was sprinting at this point. And just as I thought there was the boulder that I remembered. When I was young I used to climb it, and back when my mom was still alive this would have been the town we camped at before her, Raeve and Harry set off with the team to raid a Dominion camp. I looked ahead through the trees, and just over the ridge there should be an open field where the camp once stood. I ran up the ridge and look down below. This.............this is where mom died.
Oaken finally caught up to me and Gunner wasn't to far behind.
"Bowdie whats wrong?" She asked.
"When we got here, this place seemed familar. It's all over grown now, but believe it or not this place use to hold a Dominions camp, just over there." I pointed to the direction. "My.........my mom is here somewhere."
This was why Raeve was here. It had been so long since I had been here. At the time of the raid we had camped here for a few days before I was sent off back to home base. I had to be 13 at the time, which feels forever ago. I stood there silently and took in the view before turning to Oaken.
"Did you find anything?"
She looked at me with empathy, but what we needed right now was a direction.
"I spoke with the gentleman that runs the shack. He said he hasn't seen an Imperium for a few years now, and nothing out of the usual has happened in a long while. He did mention, he had a run in with an individual who saved his life about a year ago. A young woman, he said. I asked him to explain. Now get this.....the young woman showed exceptional skill with a gun and hand to hand combat, and the kicker? He said she stopped a blade from entering his skull by grabbing the blade with her bare hand. Sound familiar?"
I smiled........June. So that's what Raeve witnessed hu.
"Well, that't good news, but I'm not sure how that information is going to help us in the long run. That sighting happened almost a year ago." I sighed. "This truly is finding a needle in a haystack."
I turned to Gunner. He had his hands in his pockets and he was trying to kick the mud off his shoes. I took my pack off and grabbed out the boots, and sweater.
"Here." I held them out to him. He slowly retrieved them from my grasp and thanked me.
"Okay." Lets start heading back to the car. It's getting dark soon and it will take us another hour to get back on the road. Will you be okay to drive Oaken?" I asked.
"Yes." She replied.
"Okay, lets head out."